Actions Speak Louder: Why Brands Must Move Beyond ‘Telling’ Stories

Actions Speak Louder: Why Brands Must Move Beyond ‘Telling’ Stories
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In this opinion piece, Michael Buckley (pictured below), managing director of Accenture Interactive for Australia and New Zealand, offers three tips for brands wanting to achieve more valuable customer interactions through their marketing strategy.

Michael Buckley

The proliferation of branded content creation has driven a profound shift in the way brands interact with their customers. With consumers now always ‘on’ and plugged into their smart devices, content has become king. Since the introduction of the iPhone, the creation of simple-to-use video, photo-editing and self-publishing tools that followed meant anyone with a smartphone or computer could publish compelling content. It’s no longer enough for brand strategists and marketers to stick with conventional storytelling techniques. In fact, content marketing – in the traditional sense – is verging on redundant. 

While this new marketplace is challenging brands to get their content strategy right, the reality is many are struggling. Many brands are taking a misguided approach, putting too much emphasis on high production value content, rather than thinking strategically. To truly engage audiences in this saturated market, Accenture Interactive believes that brands must move towards ‘storydoing’ – the process of creating compelling content through what they do. 

Beyond the process, storydoing drives brands to step back from leading the conversation, allowing their audience to shape their own stories. Importantly, the shift to ‘storydoing’ adopts a new focus on brand drama and service experience and considering how humans interact with brands. 

Who are the brands doing it right? The most striking example is Snapchat. Its Stories feature drives 10 billion video views each day. In fact, by the end of 2016, Snapchat had declared itself a camera company with the launch of Spectacles – $130 glasses that allow users to take a 10-second video to share with friends. 

Nike is another example of a brand that mastered content creation that engages consumers. Nike created Breaking2, its own event challenge, which followed three of the world’s elite marathon runners in their journey to run the marathon in under two hours. The entire event was broadcast live on Twitter, and built a story about athletics and human endurance which resonated with its audience. 

Brands need powerful stories that cut through, unite and overcome the so-called content shock. Accenture Interactive believes there are three key lessons brand owners must learn. Firstly, they must understand that just because they create content, it doesn’t guarantee an audience. Secondly, success isn’t always driven by the highest production quality content – rather, content that humanises and personalises brands and invites audiences to be truly part of their organisation. Thirdly, live rocks. Australian e-retailer St Frock has paid attention to their customer’s insatiable desire for raw, relatable content. The brand uses the story function on both Instagram and Snapchat to capture behind the scenes moments of photo shoots and activities in the organisation’s HQ, elevating brand engagement. 

If you’re looking to alter your brand’s marketing strategy to enable more valuable customer interactions, here are some recommendations: 

Re-model your marketing team to focus on ‘storydoing 

Move beyond an insular, brand-centric content marketing strategy and focus on your people first. Giving the audience the reins to shape and participate in their own stories with your brand requires human-centred thinkers. In addition to bringing new talent to your team, challenge your existing marketing department to become orchestrators, rather than creators of content. 

Acclimatise to your audiences’ new normal and think about your brand as living 

You must define what type of content marketing strategy aligns best with your audiences’ behaviour and needs. Be privy to the changing communications norms (for example, the use of filters on social media and the trend towards live), and apply this to your own communications across every contact point. 

Nurture your content 

Ensure you have the team and infrastructure to not only test and iterate content that is in development, but also test, iterate and govern content post-launch. You have to become comfortable with ambiguity and embrace the art of experimentation. For the love of usable content experiences everywhere, don’t just launch and leave it. 

Brands looking to gain a competitive edge must acknowledge that content curation has largely changed from the traditional sense. To successfully adopt ‘storydoing’, businesses need to let audiences drive the brand conversation. By letting customers take the reins, brand strategists and content marketers have the opportunity to drive richer and more engaging interactions that will put them in a favourable position to thrive in the changing marketplace. 

The most-loved, recognised and successful brands will be the ones that take note of this shift and move away from the exclusive use of glossy, highly-edited material, towards user-generated content that places people at its heart.

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